College Championship Saturday, Prospect Points, Centers Adjusting, 4th Line Chaos, and Other Blackhawks Bullets
With the Blackhawks not starting until 9:30 tonight at the Business In Front, Party In Back Arena in Arizona, I’m going to start our Saturday morning bullets with the hockey viewing options we have before the NHL action late tonight. There are three college championship games on Saturday night, and all three have Blackhawks prospects participating.
- In the NCHC semifinals, Colorado College shutout Denver 1-0, ending the conference portion of Aidan Thompson‘s freshman season. DU will have an NCAA tournament berth waiting for them on Sunday and have a legit shot at the Frozen Four, so he isn’t done yet.
- Blackhawks prospect Dominic Basse was in net for St. Cloud State, who beat North Dakota to advance to the NCHC championship game tonight. So Basse and his teammates will get a shot at Colorado College for the crown.
- Boston University advanced to the Hockey East championship game tonight thanks to a huge performances from a couple Blackhawks prospects, goaltender Drew Commesso and forward Ryan Greene.
- The loss ends the seasons of fellow Blackhawks prospects and Providence defensemen Connor Kelley and Taige Harding.
- Blackhawks prospect Slava Demin had an assists as Merrimack defeated UMass-Lowell in double overtime to advance to the Hockey East championship. Oh, and the celebration after the 2OT GWG? I recognize that one..
- Frank Nazar and Michigan take on the Big Ten’s top seeded Minnesota Golden Gophers tonight (7 PM CT — Big Ten Network) in a game that begins early enough that it could be done before the Blackhawks start in Arizona (nicely timed, folks). This piece from MLive does a nice job of setting the table for a star-studded title game.
Few college hockey matchups could rival the level of NHL talent that will be on the ice in Saturday’s top-five showdown. Michigan has 12 draft picks on its roster, and that’s not including freshmen forwards Adam Fantilli, who leads the country in scoring and is a Hobey Baker Award finalist, and Gavin Brindley, who are both projected first-round picks in 2023…
Minnesota has 14 draft picks, including seven selected in the first two rounds. Sophomore forward Matthew Knies (21 goals, 19 assists), the Big Ten Player of the Year, and freshman forward Logan Cooley (18 goals, 32 assists) are both top-10 Hobey Baker finalists as well.
- Remember earlier this week when I wrote about how forward prospect Gavin Hayes is on a heater for the Flint Firebirds? Yeah, he scored again on Friday night.
- Remember that time last week when I wrote about how defense prospect Kevin Korchinski is on a heater for the Seattle Thunderbirds? Yeah, he’s still rolling. He, too, scored on Friday night.
- Jalen Luypen‘s season got off to a late start because of an injury, but he’s been playing some good hockey lately as well. He scored his 14th goal in his 35th game with Tri-City in the WHL last night. As a reminder: Luypen signed his entry-level contract with the Blackhawks last summer. So he’s coming to town at some point, even though he was the Hawks’ seventh-round pick (No. 216) in the 2021 NHL Draft.
- A report circulated on Friday that captain Jonathan Toews is “seriously considering retirement” after this season. We’ve talked about this subject a lot, going back to last summer after the most statistically and physically frustrating season of his career followed an entire (albeit abbreviated because of COVID) season because of illness. This is the final year of Toews’ contract and he turns 35 at the end of April. Given all of those factors, and any desire he might have to only ever wear a single sweater in his career, connecting the dots isn’t hard to do. But 19 hasn’t said anything to anyone since before the All-Star Game about… anything (outside of the brief statement released by the team regarding his health). I don’t think anyone, including Toews, wants this to be the final chapter of his book. But there’s still a month of regular season left for him to work on getting back on the ice.
- Ben Pope at the Chicago Sun-Times wrote a nice story about the Blackhawks’ centers adjusting to new roles and lines and… everything since the trade deadline. With new bodies coming in the adjustments are just now starting to settle down and players are getting more comfortable in their roles. And head coach Luke Richardson likes some of what he’s seen.
“Guys like Kurashev and Entwistle, every game it looks like they’re getting quicker and better with the reads in the ‘D’-zone,” Richardson told Pope. “That’s good for us, because we’re getting the puck back more and we have more energy.”
- Scott Powers at The Athletic wrote about the Blackhawks’ new-look fourth line of Boris Katchouk, Jujhar Khaira and Joey Anderson enjoying a fairly hot start to their time together for the Blackhawks. I’ve raved about Anderson since he got here; he’s done an effective job replacing Sam Lafferty. As Powers perfectly summarizes, “Basically, the trio creates chaos at all times.”
In 75 minutes, 54 seconds of five-on-five ice time together, the Blackhawks have advantages of 77-59 in shot attempts (56.62 Corsi percentage), 33-29 in shots on goal, 41-27 in scoring chances and 17-14 in high-danger chances, according to Natural Stat Trick. The line has a 54.70 expected goal percentage. Their actual goals percentage is 83.33. The Blackhawks have outscored opponents 5-1 with the line on the ice.
- Finally, I love Charles Barkley. Always have. And during one of the college halftimes last night he just kinda put it out there that he… didn’t do laundry.